Its really amazing to understand where a photographer stands philosophically before seeing his/her work. This is something I’ve come to understand after a long time and now when I look at books or portfolio’s now, its evident how much these people believe in those ideas and concepts that everything in their work comes to converge at that idea.
Today I’m talking about Daido Moriyama’s “Tales of Tono” which I picked up from CMYK’s counter in Bangalore. I did not know about Daido before the festival and I only came to know about him from Mahesh (Shantaram, the Organiser for Bangalore Weekend of Photo books). Now I don’t usually enjoy dark gritty urban pictures but I’ve only come across them as singular images and what fascinated me was that this was a whole book of them!
As for the make, the book is small, almost like a city guidebook. The cover features a train passing through a dark clouded valley heading into the mountains, with the title of the book and the photographers name in bold red letters. If you were to remove the dust jacket (the book is not hard bound but comes with a dust jacket) then you’ll see a entirely red cover with the same text in white but along with Japanese subtext. The back features “Tate” written in red, almost like a grafitti or like the fading text of a train ticket which is machine typed.
The book starts with a few color pictures before it reaches the title. As you move through them, you can almost feel like its a slide show, something you must see as a outsider would see. Pictures of infinite prosaic nature, mundane and bleak. Moving forward, Daido introduces the idea into your mind, of finding a home, searching for it through imagination.
From here onwards, the book is exclusively in dark matt black and white prints. The extra space, not covered by images is black too and there is no text involved. Its almost as if Daido takes you on a walk, holding your hand, showing you what he sees, a monochromatic dream like state, burning, searching through flux in a very voyeuristic manner. What interested me the most is how slowly the movement of his visuals takes over you, the black focusing your attention and the burnt prints depicting the desperate nature of this scrutiny and documentation.
Its important to look at Daido’s work in a compilation. Either as a exhibit or as a book, never online or via a few pictures because it defeats the purpose of it. His style is congruent with the idea he represents, a post war world built on ruins, which bears decomposition inside of it. Its unfortunate to say that a lot of photographers today take from his style but not from what defines that style, which is more important than the visuals itself.
I really like this book and for the cost (1240 INR) its a great buy. It needs time to sink in, its gravity only exerts itself if you let it flow through you slowly. In the first looks, it might seem very graphic and almost random but Tate Publishing has done a good job to design a cover which catches your attention and keeps it there long enough for you to take a chance. All in all, a must buy! Also, you must also watch this small video on his work, featured by Nowness, such great insight into his work.